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Ahrefs Vs Moz Keyword Explorer

Nov 22, 2016

Features in Ahrefs Keyword Explorer

Ahrefs’ new keyword explorer has a number of features that aren’t available in Moz Keyword Explorer. A few of my favorites are the ability to compare keywords side-by-side without a list, the history tab, the Return Rate, and the parent topic.

Ahrefs allows you to compare multiple search terms side-by-side without having to create a keyword list like you’re required to do in Moz. This is really helpful for a short-term project (like optimizing an article) when you don’t need to save your research. You can either type in a list of keywords or upload a list right into the search bar.

Add Several Keywords at Once in Ahrefs

Ahrefs then returns the results in a list for side-by-side comparison.

Ahrefs Keyword Comparison

If you then decide that you want to save them into a list, you can from that page. Or, if tomorrow you realize that you should have saved them, you can go into the history tab and pull your results again—all without having to save the keywords as a list.

Keyword History Results Ahrefs

My favorite new resource is the Return Rate. This is most helpful when comparing different keywords to analyze how often one keyword is searched over another. According to Ahrefs, “‘Return Rate’ is a relative number that gives you an idea of how often people perform the same search over the course of a month. ‘1’ means that people never search for that keyword again. But ‘2’ doesn’t mean that they search for it two times per month on average. It just means that they search for it quite often.”

Confused? Here’s a quick example. I did a search for fair trade chocolate, cattle feed, Virginia Tech football, and Trump.

Comparison of keywords in Ahrefs

The closer the Return Rate (RR) is to 1, the more likely people are to only search for this term once. The higher a keyword’s RR is, the more likely a user is to search for the keyword again in a month. In this example, people only search for “cattle feed” and “fair trade chocolate” once, might come back to look at “Virginia Tech football” scores, but really can’t quit searching for “Trump.”

Another useful feature is the parent topic. The parent topic takes the keyword that you search, finds the page that ranks #1 for this keyword, and determines the keyword that this page ranks best for. In the example above, "feeding schedule" has a parent topic of "baby feeding schedule," meaning that the number 1 page in search results for "feeding schedule" ranks best for "baby feeding schedule." I've already found this feature to be useful for finding keywords with parent topics that align best with my page’s intent.

Other useful features include click numbers, clicks per search numbers, and SERP feature icons (for ads, images, twitter results, etc).

Differences in Metrics from Moz and Ahref

Keyword Difficulty Differencess

Moz and Ahrefs are each measuring different things to determine a keyword’s difficulty. For Moz, “Keyword Difficulty takes into account the Page Authority (PA) and Domain Authority (DA) scores of the results ranking on the first page of Google for the given query, as well as modifying intelligently for projected click-through-rate of a given page (putting more weight on higher-ranking, more visible pages and less on lower-ranking, less visible pages).”

So, Moz uses authority and projected click-through rate to determine a keyword’s difficulty. The keyword difficulty score on Ahrefs is “purely based on backlinks pointing at the pages that rank in Google top 10 search results for a given keyword.” In fact, Ahrefs tells us that their difficulty is not taking into account the domain ranking, age of website, or on page optimization. The disparities in keyword difficulty make sense, because they are calculated in completely different ways.

Search Volume Differencess

So far, it appears that Moz and Ahrefs are gathering clickstream data from the same sources. Moz, “combines data from multiple sources (including Google Keyword Planner and purchased, anonymized clickstream data for ~1mm searchers in the US) to build...volume models.” This sounds fairly similar to Ahrefs who says, “The search volume data that we have collected from clickstream was paired with our existing volume data (from Google Keyword Planner) and after a few iterations we created a model that would give a very accurate search volume for almost any keyword there is.”

Yes, but where is this clickstream data coming from? Moz and Ahrefs both reference an article written by Moz’s Russ Jones who says, “we know of two keyword data sources — and SimilarWeb — which correlate nicely with Google Keyword Planner volumes.” It appears (so far, at least), Moz and Ahrefs are both using the same clickstream data for search volume.

Despite this, it appears Ahrefs has more granular search volume figures and fewer “n/a gaps” on detailed queries. The chart below shows the difference in monthly average searches for the same keyword set in Moz and Ahrefs’ keyword research tools.

Chart of Moz Search Volume Average Vs Ahrefs Volume Average

Ahrefs provides more keywords, more conservative average search volumes, and more data for keywords with lower search volume than in Moz. The example keyword set was for a topic that has low search volume overall. For 47% of the keywords (27 out of 57 keywords), Moz displayed “no data”, whereas Ahrefs returned average monthly searches of 0-10 for most and even 41-70 for one that returned nothing in Moz.

Initially, I thought Ahrefs might be displaying a search volume of 0-10 on keywords that Moz returned “no data” for. But in the comments of Ahrefs' keyword explorer article, Ahrefs’ Tim Soulo wrote, “Of course for some keywords the amount of data is not enough to say anything.. Imagine a keyword which is searched just a few times a month.. This is not enough to build advanced metrics. In this case we show ‘n/a’ or ‘no data’. But if you see numbers—it means we have enough data to build metrics with confidence.” If Ahrefs does have actual data for these precise keywords, it appears they currently have a larger keyword database.


Ahrefs’ new features, such as the ability to compare keywords outside a list, search history, Return Rate, and the SERP icons will help me make more informed decisions and speed up my keyword research. Moz gives a better difficulty score, but it’s helpful to see how many backlinks you need to rank for certain keywords within Ahrefs. I’d like to see more information on what sources Ahrefs uses for clickstream data, as they currently don’t list their actual sources. But overall, Ahrefs Keyword Explorer is better than Moz Keyword Explorer because it appears to give a more complete picture of search behavior with keywords.